Life in the Boomer Lane (Renee Fisher) has been preparing for this day for her entire life. She’s forgotten a lot of what has happened to her over the last 70 years, and some of that is a good thing. A lot of life decisions she has made were good ones. Some, not so good. Some items, she’d like to have a re-do. She won’t mention any names here, Steve.
Things didn’t start out in any kind of promising way. Had she been born in another era, she would have been left behind at a random tree, while the rest of the tribe moved on. But, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and an unruly number of surgeries, she somehow continues to muck along.
Her feelings about life at this advanced age are varied. First there is the predicted “How-the-fuck-did-this-happen-to-me?” part. She doesn’t look like she used to, she can’t move like she used to, and her brain doesn’t work like it used to. Overall, she feels like she is being devoured by aliens, and she suspects that, like that one unlucky astronaut aboard the spaceship in popular sci-fi films, she will be the one to be completely consumed, rather than return to earth in exhausted glory.
She still has the same abilities she has always had, although they manifest in different ways. Writing has been a lifelong passion, and it has morphed with the ebb and flow of her always-limited attention span. When she was young, she wrote poetry and short stories. As an adult she wrote two novels and two books of non-fiction. In the last 10 years, she has reverted to shorter forms of writing. Enter blogging, to save the day. Her blog posts are short, as much to accommodate her aforementioned limited attention span as they are to a recognition that people’s time is far too valuable to spend reading long posts about LBL’s random thoughts.
LBL is still working as a Realtor, although she chooses to have fewer clients and has taken on a partner. She has always been more passionate about serving clients than she has about making money. Now, the money goal has just about evaporated, replaced by an increasing desire to stay vital. She also volunteers, but she will now admit something to you: She feels better about herself to say to someone, “I’m a working Realtor” than to say “I volunteer (insert anything here)” She suspects that a therapist would raise eyebrows at that and proceed to have a $150 per hour field day investigating why LBL feels that she appears more vital when doing something she is paid for than something she is not, but, since she isn’t currently paying a therapist for anything, she doesn’t have to deal with that.
LBL has now lived long enough to have seen a host of technological advances come and go. Her first cell phone weighed about five lbs and had to be charged several times a day. She now proudly sports an i phone 7 plus, even though she knows how to use only five of its 2500 features. Mostly, she has spent the last seven decades trying to avoid technology, unless that technology was required either for her job or in order to save her life.
She continues to use paper and pen to keep track of appointments and deadlines, and her Daytimer is her bible. But, in the years since 1995, she has dramatically changed the way she records appointments. Tiny cryptic messages used to suffice (“2:00 Cole”). Now, that entry would elicit questions about who Cole was, if “Cole” was a first or last name, and whether skipping this appointment would mean loss of business or death. Instead that entry would now be recorded as: “2:00 Dr Cole, pulmonologist,” followed by the address of the office and, even on occasion, the exact nature of the appointment.
Like most people her age, she has lost all members of the older generation of her family. She has also lost friends. She has friends who have lost spouses. She knows that loss will be looming ever larger in her life as time goes on and there’s not a damn thing she can do about it.
She is also now old enough to have produced children who are old enough to be starting to make kvetchy comments about their own aging. This, above everything else, is what startles her the most. When raising her three, she simply anticipated seeing them as adults, not as aging adults.
All in all, her overwhelming feeling is of gratitude. Thus far, she’s had a life that she often didn’t think she deserved, friends who held her to a higher possibility than she held herself, and a set of circumstances that allowed her to have opportunities that were never available to her parents.
If you are waiting for more good news in all this, LBL is afraid there isn’t much. What she realizes is that, unlike past generations in which there were so few older people that those who existed were treated with reverence, the world now abounds with old folks. If anything, old people are now an afterthought or an annoyance. Yes, there are those who still run marathons or do any other number of athletic, creative, and intellectual feats. But, if we are truly honest with ourselves, these people are rare. They do not define this age. LBL never did those things when she was younger, anyway. It’s highly unlikely she will start now.
If there’s a nugget LBL would like to pass on to you, it’s that she doesn’t believe that society will validate us. Each of us who is old has to find our own validation, our own reason for going on. We can rant as long as we want to, but society won’t give us the respect we feel we are due, just because we continue to breathe. Society will always look for the latest, the most innovative, the strongest, and those requiring the least amount of society’s energy to maintain.
In spite of the childhood issues and numerous surgeries, LBL can describe herself as healthy. She has no terminal illness and no debilitating disease. She has a husband and family who seem to like to be in her company. She can still read the same kinds of books she has always read and talk about them for hours with fellow readers. She can still write, albeit shorter pieces. She is still funny and irreverent. She has a lot of friends and enough resources to travel. She has developed a perspective on life that serves her, as long as she keeps the mental nonsense at bay.
She has forgotten why she disliked certain people, so she is seen as a forgiving type, when in reality she isn’t. Because she was raised in a family that had no money, she has always been independent. She has always believed that the world owed her nothing, except the opportunity to create her own well-being. For all of this, she knows she is one of the lucky ones.
These items are a lot, and they will have to be enough, because she also knows that, at this age, more than at any time previous in her life, nothing is a given. Health can go at any moment. Mental functioning can start to slide in a way that even a Daytimer, no matter how detailed, can’t save her. LBL has already lived ten years longer than her mom did. She has lived over twenty years longer than one of her closest friends. They, more than anything else, are a daily remnder to her that each day, she has only that day.
For these reasons, she celebrates each birthday with gratitude as well as joy. Does she have goals for the future? You bet. She still wants to lose the same five lbs she has been struggling with for about thirty years. On the other hand, she still wants to sample ice cream in as many locations as possible, to see if any out there can rival coffee Haagen Dazs. She still wants to find the perfect minimizer bra and the perfect sheer, long-lasting, red lipstick. She still wants, after over 40 years, to look forward to going to the gym each day, instead of dreading it.
She wants to see her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren continue to delight and amaze her. She wants to become a more effective ESL teacher. She wants to re-experience having a president she respects. She wants to read more books that will knock her socks off. She wants to hear that someone has designed an adult bike with training wheels and a motor that kicks in when one is going uphill. And she still wants to understand technology, sports, and investments, although the reality is that she spends no time in order to achieve this elusive triple goal.
So, at age 70, LBL looks in the mirror, wishes herself a happy birthday, receives birthday wishes from others, and plans her day. This day is what she has, and it will be whatever she makes of it. She has already had Faetime wishes from her children and grandchildren. She will hit “Publish” to this post, answer emails, and wait for the contractor to find out why it is raining in her dining room. Later, if the roof permits, she will spend the rest of the day seeing a movie and going to dinner with a friend.
Lest you feel sorry for her that she isn’t doing more on this actual day, she will assure you that she will have her share of celebrations throughout the month, with both family and friends. Capping it off will be a week-long celebration at a family resort in Maine, with Now Husband and all the children and grandchildren.
Molly Shannon did an ongoing schtick on Saturday Night Live, in which she was a 50-year-old named Sally O’Mally. She had an outdated, bubble hairdo, wore a terrible red skin-tight outfit, with the waistband up to her boobs, and equally terrible white athletic shoes. She spent her time leaping all over the stage, high kicking, and loudly proclaiming “I’m 50! 50!”
Unlike Sally, LBL prides herself on having a much more refined sartorial sense, still wears high heels, and has Keratin treatments to calm her often deranged hair. Also, she has 20 years on Sally and she couldn’t high kick if her life depended on it. She certainly couldn’t contort her body like Sally did. But today, while she is celebrating her friend’s birthday, LBL will channel Sally and her manic attitude toward her age. She will, when she leaves the house, be walking around smiling and making eye contact with anyone she comes across, silently yelling, “I’m 70! 70!” and doing mental high kicks. She will, one way or another, get everyone’s attention.
This 70-year-old will not be invisible.